Getting Engaged Advice

Are you thinking about getting engaged but still wondering if your partner is right for you? Michael Batshaw, psychotherapist and author of 51 Things You Should Know Before Getting Engaged, explains what you need to consider before taking the plunge.

Q: What are some of the most common mistakes people make when they get engaged?

A: First, couples that don’t argue are in trouble. Wedding planning can be stressful, so don’t get engaged before you have become sufficiently annoyed at and resentful of certain aspects of your partner’s personality. It’s essential to have the visceral experience of such annoyance and resentment in order to heighten your awareness and develop a depth of understanding as regards to your partner’s strengths and weaknesses.

Secondly, marriage is also a business, and money is a real issue-especially during the planning stage. When you share a life, who you spend money on and how freely you do so may differ. So make sure you have a sobering discussion about finances before you say “I Do.”

Third, your relationship should not be your only passion in life. It’s easy to get swept up in the moment, planning your wedding and new life together but make sure you take a step back and get some perspective. Push yourself to try to experiment with some things you like outside of your relationship, and continue to cultivate your friendships as they offer a tremendous amount of support and strength while you are married.

Q: How can you determine if your partner is the right one for you?

A: It’s one thing to date someone for fun, but another when you’re looking to find “The One.” If you’re single, there are several qualities you should expect your potential lifelong beau to have, and if you’re taken, you owe it yourself to look for and cultivate these same qualities in the way you and your partner relate. Though we each have our own personal taste regarding a mate, some qualities are simply universal in lasting, solid relationships:

  • Your partner must have a career that you respect and vice versa.
  • You need to feel chemistry, attraction and a mutual desire to keep sex alive.
  • You and your potential mate should share certain tastes, not all tastes, but you should be able to easily call to mind several things you enjoy together
  • You should agree on (before getting engaged) the particulars surrounding having a family, not necessarily the time line but the bigger questions like do you both want one.

Above all, you need to keep your eyes open and make sure you’re not blinded by infatuation or preconceived notions about the person you’re with so that when you do walk down the aisle, you’ll know with your entire being that they’re really “The One.”

Q: What are some of the biggest warning signs that your relationship won’t succeed?

A: Whether you’re thinking about getting married or have already taken the plunge, these are five of the top red flags that could derail the success of your relationship:
1. You think your relationship is perfect and have nothing but admiration and love for who your partner is.
2. You can’t agree on bigger issues, like kids…but you think he’ll eventually change his mind.
3. Your partner promises to change behaviors but keeps repeating them.
4. You have knock down, drag out fights with lots of yelling and insults.
5. Your partner puts you on a pedestal.

Q: What are some of the biggest signs that you will have a successful marriage?

A: 1. Being able to talk about the little issues before they grow into big ones.
2. The best couples argue forcefully but with empathy and respect.
3. Being open to discussing your family’s problems, because you’ve probably inherited some of them anyway.
4. Being able to apologize and change your behavior.
5. Patience is a virtue, it will take you far.

Q: What’s your advice for a couple contemplating engagement?

A: One hardly ever hears, “I wish I had gotten engaged earlier.” If you’re thinking about getting married it’s very important that you take the time to talk through the issues: money, religion, kids, daily living habits, sex, etc. Make sure that you and your partner are compatible and more importantly can work toward resolving the ones that conflict.

Also, don’t get wrapped up in the Hollywood fantasy: they get it wrong. Films and TV shows often contrast the beauty and purity of youthful love, full of promise and passion, with the old, stale “out of touch” relationships of the characters’ elders. This sets up an unfortunate dilemma because as time passes and a relationship between two open people matures, shared passion grows and leaves you more satisfied than the best-written film could possibly ever show.